Context for poetry (Marlowe to Davies)





Poetry Context





The Passionate Shepherd to his Love

Traditional pastoral poem – seduction poem, focused on shepherds, shepherdesses and country life

Contrasted innocence of rural life with complex urban life

Ignored many hardships of rural existence, idealistic


Sonnet 73

Frequent outbreaks of plague brought death to the forefront

Addressed to the ‘fair youth’ – suggested sexual relation, but possibly just platonic

Sonnet 130

Satirising ‘Blason’ poetry – poetry listing beauty and perfections of a woman

Uses conventional, cliched imagery in order to subvert the image


There is a Garden in Her Face

Phrase ‘Cherry Ripe’ familiar to 17th century readers, called by street vendors to advertise fruit

Typical women at the time was a passive object of male desire who had to be on guard & protect her honour

Less common image for time of a woman in a position of power, she will decide her own destiny

‘Cherry Ripe’ = sexual innuendo for virginity

Patriarchal society


The Flea

Metaphysical poet (characterised by highly inventive, surprising and startling extended metaphors)

From a catholic family but converted to CofE and moved towards religious poetry attacking the catholic faith

The Flea was a popular image for poetry – usually envied by the poet for its ability to explore a woman’s body, Donne varies this poetic convention, using it as an analogy for his ‘argument’

Lots of experience with women, lived sensual as well as intellectual life, spent much inheritance on women


To Virgins, to make much of Time

Cavalier poet – supported King Charles I in Civil War, promoted crown, spoke out against Roundheads

Cavalier poetry tended to celebrate love, nature, beauty, sensuality and good fellowship

‘Carpe Diem’, usually a seduction poem, but this poem also includes advice to marry


To my Dear and Loving Husband

Born to a wealthy puritan family, married at 16 and moved to puritan colony in America with husband

Well-educated for a woman at time, 1st female writer in England’s North American colonies to be published

Puritans embraced sexuality and romantic love, but within marriage – a good marriage is pleasing to God

Straightforward, ‘puritan’ style of the poem. Puritans did not like luxury or extravagance


A Satirical Elegy on the Death of a Late Famous General

Elegies tend to adopt a melancholy tone – but this is a satirical poem, mocking tone

Swift attacks John Churchill, Duke of Marlborough

Marlborough was a well-connected politician and general who Swift believed was ‘profiteering’ off the war

Marlborough was a Whig and Swift was a Tory









Born in London, did not attend school as a young child, wandered city freely, became engraver, Romantic

Religious revolutionary – was hostile to church and priests and had a radical notion of God being a tyrant

Felt church was cold and uncaring in the face of mass poverty and suffering

Lived through revolutionary times (American and French revolutions began while


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